The Current Fall FINAL





















here's something to be said for intentionally maintaining a sense of place. Purpose drives

us all toward individual goals, but meaningful progress happens when purpose-driven

people collectively pursue shared goals in community with one another.

The power of this concept is often diluted in our world today, and it can be hard to see and feel

the lasting effects of community building. In a world constantly rushing to overstimulate us at

every turn, it's easy to lose perspective. We are encouraged to self-distract, to push ever toward

individual progress, and success is measured not in how we make people feel - but by how many

people we can "reach."

At The Columbusite, we refuse to buy into the lie that meaningful work has to be solitary. The

impact of a community on individuals can no longer be ignored if we are to build the type of

places we want our children to live in when they are adults. Just last month, we published a story

with data proving that the most effective form of crime prevention is community involvement.

And what defines a community? People and their sense of place.

Columbus, Georgia and the Chattahoochee Valley are currently experiencing a cultural

renaissance. Almost daily, announcements are made about new events encompassing all elements

of arts and culture. For locals and visitors alike, the question each week is no longer, "What is

there to do here this weekend?" but rather, "How are we going to choose what to do here this

weekend?" Now more than ever, a multi-generational, diverse community of people are actively

working to encourage local culture to flourish here. The result? Our community is thriving.

Don't believe us? Give our community's cultural renaissance a chance to impact your life and

watch what happens. Not sure where to start? Simply slow down and make time to invest in

something new. Take a seat in an audience. Sign up for a class to learn a new skill. Volunteer. Sit

by the river for awhile without your phone. Make it a priority to enjoy a live performance with

someone you love. Order something different at dinner. Listen to something local. Just lean in.

Before long, I'll wager you'll wake up one morning and realize that you have found a deeper sense

of place in our community. Suddenly, you'll find yourself craving encounters with local culture in

new ways.

with our Summer Arts & Culture Guide

Do us a favor when it happens. Remember that feeling. Because that is what makes our hearts skip

a beat. Bringing people to a deeper sense of place in our community through continued investment

in arts and culture is why we do what we do. It's why we continue to work with and for our

community. And it's why we will continue building something together, season after season, for as

long as you'll join us.

The water is rising,

and though it's yet crystal clear,

it's the depth of life that matters here.

Ever onward, together. .


Founder & Editor in Chief

Follow along on Instagram and Facebook @thecolumbusite


Entrée des Artistes

Ben Redding + Muddy Water

CHICAGO: Inside the Killer Musical

It's All Linked: Alee Link

Food + Bev

Cafe Motif

Local Living

Go Sym-PHONE-ic : CSO's New App

In Full Bloom: Columbus Botanical Garden

Fall Arts & Culture Guide

Worth the Drive

Seeking Serenity: Our Guide to Serenbe

a publication of T H E C O L U M B U S I T E




Founder & Editor - in - Chief


Creative Director


Marketing + Media Manager


Blake Blackmon

Charlotte Gallagher

Natalia Temesgen


Ben Dallas Redding, co-founder of Muddy Water Theatre Project.

Read his story and more about Muddy Water on page 7.

Ben was photographed in the Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University.


It’s noon and as the stainless steel elevator doors open,

we let out a collective sigh of quiet relief. The

immediate relaxation is met with the simultaneous rush

of inspiration that always accompanies our visits here.

While most trips are for respite, today’s pilgrimage is

for an entirely different purpose.

My subject and I are captivated by the light

immediately. We walk quietly, moving intentionally

slow as we transverse the gallery. In hushed voices, we

share our mutual adoration for its architecture and

discuss the nearly violent dichotomy between the light

and dark themes held in the paintings on each wall. It

moves us both, differently, as it should and does every


Art has a funny way of becoming familiar and yet

greets us differently with each encounter. Some of my

favorite masterpieces live within these walls, but I

return to them often and learn something different

about myself or the world each time.

"Are you ready to get started?" he says.

His question pulls me back to reality.

I smile and nod, familiar to the feeling of welling

inspiration as it beings to set in.

Without further discussion, we move to the center of

the gallery to get to work.








enjiman Redding is a Columbus native

that's as strong as they come.

Born and raised along the Chattahoochee, Redding

knows the heart of our people here. “I grew up

being taught that there is no substitution for hard

work,” said Redding in a recent interview. “My

parents raised me to love people well and work

hard. They are so much of what made me into the

man I am today.”

From an early age, Redding showed promise in the

arts. “When I was young, I was always acting and

couldn’t wait for the next time I could be on

stage,” said Redding. “I loved everything about it,

and they did everything she could to get me the

training I needed.”

In high school. Redding yearned for more than

what he could find locally. He ended up leaving

Harris County to attend the prestigious Walnut

Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts

and then came back to the South to major in

Musical Theatre at Elon University in North


After graduation, Redding landed a National

Broadway Tour of West Side Story in which he

played Riff. “Being a part of a national tour was a

dream,” said Redding. “I absolutely loved it, but

at the end found myself yearning for a different

experience moving forward.”

For this story, Redding was photographed on location, with permission, in the Bo Bartlett Center.

The masterpieces of Columbus native Bo Bartlett can be seen throughout our story. The painting shown

in the image above is Bartlett's 'September' oil on linen, 48x48.

Redding had his eye on theatre production and direction. An avid writer, Redding spent time in Atlanta working and

gathering ideas for what to do next. It was then that Columbus grabbed his attention. “I came home to visit my mom and

some friends, and couldn’t believe what was happening here. The cultural growth since I’d left was crazy. The arts were

flourishing in ways I’d never seen in my hometown, and I just knew I had to be a part of it.”

It wasn’t long until Redding moved home, and got to work on his first idea. What began as a reimagining of

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, quickly transformed into a full-fledged production at RiverWalk Amphitheatre that

sold out. R + J Theory premiered to an incredibly diverse crowd of theatre-goers and shook the traditional definition of

local theatre to its core.


“We were amazed by the turnout,” said Redding. “I

knew Columbus was ready for something new, but I

had no idea that R+J would lead to an entirely new,

expanded audience for local theatre.”

R+J’s success led Redding to begin exploring the

possibility of developing a production company. After

some extensive research, Redding and his friend

Austin Sargent co-founded Muddy Water Theatre

Project - a grassroots, nomadic production company

dedicated to expanding the reach of local theatre in

our community.

Fast-forward six months. Redding and his team at

Muddy Water Theatre Project have completed two

full productions and are gearing up for their third

this Fall. After announcing an ambitious first season,

Muddy Water opened Three Act Play to rave reviews

and a sold out house. The venue, Pop Uptown,

thought it was such a success that they extended the

run for an extra show. Suddenly, almost even

overnight, Muddy Water found themselves on the


“We were completely astounded and humbled by the

support Three Act Play received. While we knew

we’d seen interest, it was another thing entirely to

experience the support firsthand. Everyone from all

walks of life came to support our work. It was a lifechanging

moment for me personally, and the exact

thing we needed to see as a team to push us on to

challenge ourselves even more.”

That challenge has been accepted.

This Fall, Redding and Sargent are tackling their

biggest production yet. They’re bringing back R+J

Theory for a second year, but this time, they’re

taking over Woodruff Park and staging R+J in the

middle of a full renaissance festival.

“It’s Shakespeare in the Park reimagined for our

time,” explained Redding. “We know the community

is ready for it, and we have some of the most

incredible local partners working with us this year.”

He isn’t kidding. The partners are some of the biggest

players in local arts and culture. Redding and Muddy

Water have teamed up with Columbus State

University and Uptown Columbus to pull the festival

and production together.

“It’s important to me that we do this piece, this year.

I’ve seen the word renaissance used a thousand times

to describe our city’s current cultural growth.

Nothing is more true. Our community is flourishing

right now like it never has before. R+J Theory is the

culmination of that. I am so proud that Muddy Water

can bring it to our community at this time in our

history as a city. I love to think of it as a stamp, a

marker of celebrating what is happening at this

moment in time in our city right now.”

It won’t come easily, though. Muddy Water is making

some big strides in audience engagement, and if the

local audience will buy in, Redding believes it will be

worth it.


There is no doubt that R+J is a huge ask," said Redding.

"It’s the biggest ask I’ve ever made from our community.

It’s big because I have to have so many people on board.

Our audience members will have to engage in their

surroundings in ways they haven’t in a traditional

theatre before. It’s a renaissance festival and a theatre

production all in one. To get everything we can out of

this as a community, people are going to have to trust us

and show up. I’m asking everyone to hop on board and

lean into what we are building.”

Redding said that act of leaning in can happen in a

variety of ways. "The most simple way for locals to

support Muddy Water is just by showing up,” Redding

explained. “Purchasing a ticket, or sponsoring one for

someone in need, is a wonderful way to help us advance

our mission of bringing new people into our local art

audiences. My biggest fear is that Columbus won’t realize

how big this could be until after it’s over. In the same

way our community’s renaissance has been something we

are all working toward together, R+J is something we’re

going to build hand-in-hand together. We need everyone

who can support the work to come and do so.”

R+J Theory will run the weekend of November 15 & 16 in Woodruff Park. Tickets will go on sale soon with a variety of

price points. Local vendors will be invited to participate in the R+J Renaissance Festival, and guests are invited to dress

in a Renaissance theme. “We’re putting a dress code out there to add yet another element of community engagement to

the entire experience,” said Redding. “We want this to be a true festival feeling. We’re gathering to celebrate the arts

and our community’s growth. We want a vibrant, eclectic, welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy. Our team

believes it will only add to the memory we’re curating for our community to share for decades to come.”

In terms of the actual R+J Theory show, Redding and his team are viewing it as a period piece. “We debuted R+J Theory

last year accompanied by a soundtrack of songs that were still new at the time,” Redding shared. “Now, even just a year

later, those songs are dated but in a good way. We considered updating the soundtrack and changing some things, but it

just wouldn’t have been the same show if we did. So, we’re leaving it as it debuted, but with some minor improvements

and a lot of new faces on stage.”


While the production will consist of exactly the same script and soundtrack, only about half of the cast will be the

same. Redding said he’s made some minor adjustments that feel like a luxury to be able to execute.

The beautiful thing is what a blessing it is as an artist to have the opportunity to take a show like R+J and improve

it. I am really proud of how R+J was received last year, but I am a perfectionist and I am so thankful for the chance

to make it even better this time around.”

Only time will answer the unanswerable questions lingering for all of us. Will R+J become an annual festival of the

arts in our city? Are Redding and his team at Muddy Water going to see the audience engagement they’re hoping


Regardless of the answers, Redding is at peace with where he is. “I am humbled and amazed to be doing the work at

this time in our community’s history. As a Columbus native, I can honestly say that I never thought I’d find my

hometown a place I wanted to live and work as an adult. The growth we are all experiencing is a gift, and I count it

a privilege to just play my part in furthering the arts here. The water is rising, and it’s offering a new depth to life

here. Whatever the future holds for me professionally, I will always have this space and time to look back on and

reflect. I will be grateful to have been actively involved in the here and now, in my hometown, for the rest of my

life.” ◼

For more information on Muddy Water Theatre Project and R+J Theory, click here:

Special thanks to the Bo Bartlett Center and the College of the Arts at Columbus State University for allowing us to photograph on



It's All Linked

Story by Carrie Beth Wallace | Images by Emily Matthewson and Gina Spinelli

In the middle of Southeast Asia,

suddenly Alee Link knew it was

time for her to move back home.

After years of living away from

Columbus, Georgia, she realized

something was waiting for her here.

What she didn't know was that moving

home would lead to one of the most

fulfilling and important chapters of her

life. A season of healing, affirmation,

community-building, and a renewed

passion for arts and culture. Read our

interview with her to discover how and

why Link can finally say she's found the

place she belongs, at home, in Columbus,


Image by Emily Matthewson Photography.

Why did you come back to Columbus?

To be honest, when I graduated from high

school, I moved straight to New York City and

thought I would never come back… But after

college, I was craving nature and found myself

back home for a gap year to figure out what

was next. I taught dance for my mom and yoga

at Toni’s Dancing School and did every show I

could at the Springer.

It was during this time that Ben and I

connected. We both went to Brookstone our

whole lives and had always known each other,

but never connected. Christmas of 2009,

something had shifted dramatically… he

seemed different in an intriguing way. He was

present, kind, and compassionate and I soon

learned it was because he had recently

incorporated daily meditation and yoga into his

lifestyle and we’ve literally been together ever


Ben was living in LA at the time, but quickly

decided to join me in Columbus. However, as

soon as he moved home, we felt the need to

leave yet again. We knew Columbus was on the

verge of shifting and we wanted to be a part of

it, but it wasn’t quite happening yet. So, we

moved to the Virgin Islands where we were

kayak tour-guides, teaching people about the

importance of the eco-system. I also performed

in and choreographed shows at the local theatre

on the island. Never in a million years would I

have guessed that’s where we’d really start our

lives together, but it was pure perfection.

We were living the dream- having so much fun

and growing together and individually. One

thing I learned while living on St. Thomas was

that no matter where I am, I will always find

culture and be a part of it. It is vital for our


How wonderful. Where did you go after the

Virgin Islands?

After living island life for about a year, we

decided we were ready to ground down a bit

more. So, we moved to Atlanta, where I taught

yoga full time.

Image by Emily Matthewson Photography.


I was literally in heaven- but, Ben couldn’t find a job. His

whole life up to adulthood was devoted to soccer (and he

was a star!). In college he studied film and television and

tried to get a job in that field in Atlanta, but it just was

not written in the stars for us at that time. Divine timing!

It was frustrating at the time, but looking back, we are so

grateful because those seeming rejections were actually

golden tickets, leading us down the path we were meant to

be on.

I’m sure. Unfortunately, you have to have a job to get

a job.

God was guiding him very clearly out of the world of film

because he was meant to be in the world of food. This is

when we developed a true love for food and a magical

restaurant experience. He became so passionate, excited,

and engaged in local food, growing food and sustainability.

Fast forward seven years and Ben co-owns a restaurant

that is focused on locally grown, sustainable food. But had

he not received those “rejections” from the Atlanta

workforce, he would not be where he is today.

Where’d you go after Atlanta? What happened next?

We traveled through Southeast Asia, backpacking style.

Why? Because yet again, I felt the need to uproot and

MOVE. It was another moment of divine timing for us,

though. While we were in Thailand, I had a really

profound Savasana (that moment of surrender after a yoga

class) where I had a vision and realization.

I rushed out of the class to find Ben to relay the message:

“I think we need to move home and open a yoga studio

called River Flow Yoga because the river is the vein of our

hometown and our aim will be to teach and guide people

how to live a connected life.” I was talking 90 miles an


What did he say?

He was like, “Okay.” (laughing) He believes in dreams.

Ben Link’s purpose in life is to help people achieve their

dreams. It’s what he does.

It’s interesting to me that now, he’s opened a restaurant

where he feeds people. More than just on a fundamental

level, Ben wants to feed people on multiple levels. When

you leave Bare Roots, he wants you to leave feeling

empowered and excited to go do your thing - whatever it

is. How cool is that?

Very. So did you both come home at this point?

Yes, and the day we got home, I found out I was pregnant

with Willow. Ben had Dengue Fever at the time, which is

like Malaria and he was so sick. But, I screamed, “Ben,

we’re pregnant!” All he could muster was, “okay” in a very

weak voice. Obviously, he was thrilled, but had no way of

showing it.

Ben’s souvenir from our travels aside, this pregnancy was

THE changing point in our lives. It’s when our energy

shifted completely from needing to move and go


The positive pregnancy test was a sign from God saying,

“You are exactly where you’re supposed to be right now.”

It completely rooted us and still gives me chills to think


So, that is really our journey back to Columbus. With

many twists, turns, and adventures along the way, we came

back to our roots with a purpose. We decided we were

going to stop complaining about the city we grew up in and

instead DO something about it. We wanted to be a PART

of the change we could already see happening and for us,

that was through wellness, mindfulness, and connectivity.

AKA: yoga.


Amazing. So what was it like to open a business and

be one of the first to offer this type of wellness

services here?

It was the more nerve-racking thing I’ve ever done. And

yet, it has been wildly rewarding.

Starting a business is terrifying. What was the

scariest part for you?

I have an insane fear of failure, and this is a huge reason

I practice yoga- to unblock the barriers and release false

narratives I (and society) have built up in my mind, body,

and spirit. Through my practice, I have slowly started to

break down the walls that fuel that fear so that I’m able to

show up in my business, in the community, and in the

world courageously in my truth because when we are

living in authenticity with pride, we are holding up

mirrors for others to do the same and that is how this

community, this world, becomes harmonious.

I knew that opening a yoga studio in a town that didn’t

have much yoga or wellness in general was a gamble, both

financially and for my ego. To be honest, a huge reason I

always felt the need to move away from Columbus was

because I never really felt like I fit into any one group or

community here and I craved that. I couldn’t wait to get

out and find my people… only to realize you never “find

your people.” Your people, your community, your tribe is

everywhere and anywhere, as long as we’re whole in our


For me, I just had to reconnect with that: my truth. The

lesson in opening a business was actually less about what

other people would think of me and more about being true

to me. When we stand confidently in our autonomy and

express it outwardly for all to see, feel, and experience, we

then hold space for others to expand and grow in their own

unique individuality and THAT is when the magic

happens. So, yes, it was all very scary, but truthfully


How did you find the community received you upon

your return and opening your new business?

It’s been incredible. Really. The community has been

wonderful. Especially the community we’ve developed here

at River Flow. If these chairs could talk… I mean. After

every class, we sit in this circle of chairs and just share

about our lives together. The tears that have been shed,

the hugs that have been given. It moves me to tears to

think about. Because, yes, I opened a studio for people to

have a space to practice yoga and experience wellness. But

I just had no idea that a family - a tribe - would form.

Were you surprised by that?

Honestly? Yes. Columbus, like anywhere, can be clicky.

And I just didn’t know if the community was ready for

this type of wellness. But, at River Flow, we have a

community that is literally welcomes anyone and

everyone, no matter what. Our focus is to keep the energy

in our sacred space welcoming and inviting for anyone to

show up exactly as they are. We are literally here to hold

space for self-realization, healing, and growth. To me, that

is what makes a beautiful, sustainable, and thriving

community- where we welcome each other as one, knowing

that each unique individual is not only important, but

vital to the community on a macro and micro level.

A huge surprise for us was the military presence at RFY. It

has been such a gift to meet and connect with the brave

families who sacrifice so much for our independence. We

have become a home away from home for many of them. A

place where they feel instantly connected after moving so

often. We provide a refuge of safe tranquility and peace

and to watch them surrender into that magic is so


So, yes, while opening a business was wildly nerve-racking,

this adventure has healed my whole soul. It has forced me

out of my ego and into my heart. I literally feel as though

my entire being has been healed and expanded thanks to

the ups and downs, the growth and the lessons… but most

of all the community. To have a place that accepts the

WHOLE me, raw, real, and authentic in my truth has been

unbelievably rewarding and for that, I am forever grateful.


How has your personal wellness journey gone hand-inhand

with arts and culture? How has the community

you have found here been involved with that process?

I am obsessed with this question and have been thinking

about it a lot recently. I go to the theatre often and every

single time, I am left crying. I am so moved by the

energetic exchange that I can hardly breathe. I have come

to realize that it is the connection that is just so powerfulbetween

audience and performer- not to mention all of the

work that goes on behind the scenes and beforehand to

make the show actually happen. And so, my wellness

journey goes with this experience so beautifully because to

witness live theatre is a practice in deep gratitude and

complete mindfulness. It is a meditation in and of itself.

We live in a world of constant distraction and the theatre

(and art in general) invites us to pause the excess noise and

take the time to allow ourselves to be moved… to truly

FEEL something. And to feel is to be alive. So, arts and

culture is literally life-giving.

Yes. I couldn’t agree more. How has that shaped you?

Whether it’s visiting the magnificence of the Bo Bartlett

Center or witnessing the latest magic from Muddy Water

Theatre Project, I am emotional. I just feel so overwhelmed

with gratitude because the artists and souls behind all of

the incredible projects are being vulnerable enough to

share their stories and express themselves, which then

gives me the extra courage to go out into the world and

share my unique gifts. Art is truly the most beautiful

ripple effect one could ever imagine. It is an energetic

exchange that literally connects people to one another.

It’s easy to feel alone in this mighty world, but to

experience art is to experience your connection and that is

literally why I practice yoga. Yoga brings me into this deep

state of constant awareness and connectivity. The word

“yoga” means “to connect” and so I use the practice on the

mat in order to bring me into a deeper state of

connectivity in the world. THIS is when we truly

experience the fullness of this life: when we’re connected

to ourselves, each other, this planet, and all that is and I

truly believe that thanks to my practice on the mat, I’m

able to make deeper connections in all I see, feel, and

experience in this world, especially with arts and culture

in our community- therefore enhancing my overall state

of wellbeing.

How have your experiences in the arts as a performer

transformed the way you think about our local arts

and culture?

First and foremost, it makes me grateful because I know

how much work, passion, and love goes into each and every

performance and rehearsal. When you’re on stage, you

must be completely present. If the mind wanders, so does

the scene- you’ll mess up a line or forget a step. You must

be totally focused and mindful of what you’re doing and

saying and that lesson teaches us to do the same thing

when we’re in the world. We must stay fully engaged in all

that we do in order to really experience this life.

The stage teaches us this and that’s why I love being

onstage and experience live theatre so much. The arts ask

us to lean in and be present- this lesson alone can and will

transform a community and I can see it happening already

in Columbus.

In what ways?

It all comes down to surrender. Paul Pierce says this in his

opening speech before every show at the Springer,

“Surrender to an evening of live theatre.” This notion of

surrender is what makes the arts such a vital part of our

existence. Surrender means we let go, we release, we soften

into. For the few hours we’re experiencing live theatre, we

are in a state of full on surrender, meaning we are 1,000%

connected to what is. We’re not checking our phones or

distracted by the news. We are fully integrated in the

present moment. This literally becomes a practice for us.

Surrender is a muscle that we must strengthen and train

to experience it more often in our everyday lives.

Surrender is what transforms our lives from mundane to

magic. It is our choice to sleepwalk through a really

fascinating life or LIVE a truly fascinating life and I

believe live theatre guides us into that space.

I agree wholeheartedly. Can you give me an example

of how you’re seeing this personally?

Yes. I went to RiverCenter and saw Kinky Boots. The show

was phenomenal. I was crying because the performance was

so incredible, but by the end, I was emotional over the

audience’s reception of the work. Our community gave

that show a standing ovation.


At the end, during the lead’s solo at the end in the

nursing home, did you notice how the audience just

kept clapping? The storytelling was phenomenal,

and that proved to me that we are becoming a local

audience that appreciates space for great

storytelling. By listening to other peoples’ stories, it

enables us to tell our own and accept others more

readily. To see Columbus embracing a show like

Kinky Boots was powerful to me. It shows just how

far our city has come. There’s no way that fifteen

years ago, Columbus would have been ready to

accept the message in our audience. That was a huge

moment in Columbus. I mean, I would have cried

anyways (laughing) but I cried the way I did because

of how our community received that story.

Alee, you so clearly love our community and its

people. What’s your favorite thing about our


My favorite thing about Columbus and the reason I

feel rooted here is the river. I don’t know that I

would’ve moved back for good had the river still

been dammed. When they blew that dam, the city

started to explode. There are so many metaphors

connected to the result of the rushing water.

What I love about the river and the reason I named

our studio River Flow, is the life-giving energy it

embodies. Growing up here, we were told to never

dip even a toenail in the Chattahoochee because it

was so filthy. And honestly, we never even ventured

to that part of town. But now that the river has

been released and the water is once again flowing,

she is reconnected to her truth- alive and pure. This

is exactly what happens within ourselves when we

remove the blockages that hold us back from our

whole being. It is easy due to societal conditioning

to put up walls or barriers to protect us from

expressing ourselves fully. But those barriers

eventually build up like energetic plaque in our

bodies, minds, and spirits. When we are living based

on what we think we “should” be doing, saying,

thinking, and wearing, we are damming up our


Image by Gina Spinelli Photography.


The same thing goes for our community.

When they allowed the river to do her

thing, we discovered new species that are in

fact a vital part of our ecosystem, the water

is cleaner than ever, and now we are using

her energy to bring joy and abundance to

our community as a whole. This analogy can

also be used to describe what is happening

culturally in our artistic community as well.

So much has been rediscovered, so many

have found their voice, and new life is

flourishing with pride because a whole city

is holding space and making space for

growth and expansion. Because of the

inspiration from the river, we are seeing

confidence in our city like never before,

leading to profoundly inspiring projects and

businesses. So, let it be known, that we as a

community, as a family, as a tribe, have a

responsibility to continue to uplift and

support our brothers and sisters who are

shining their lights.

To be honest, living in a big city would be

easier for me, as a yoga teacher… But, being

a part of this huge rush and the fluidity of

this city gives me life. Being a part of a

community is what arts and culture are all

about. We all simply want to feel like we

belong and I can finally say with

confidence, I belong in Columbus, GA. ◼

Image by Emily Matthewson Photography.

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inside the killer musical opening Springer's new season

Story and images by Blake Blackmon


Friday, September 20th marks the exciting opening of Chicago at the Springer Opera House. Audience

members will likely be familiar with one rendition of the 70’s musical whether it’s the original Bob Fosse

directed and choreographed production, the updated 1996 Broadway revival directed by Walter Bobbie with

choreography "in the style of Bob Fosse" by Ann Reinking, or the 2002 film directed and choreographed by Bob

Marshall. The second longest running show on Broadway will kick off the Springer’s new season with pizzazz (and

“All That Jazz!”).

Shane Hall, director and choreographer, was kind enough to answer a few questions and share some insight to the

process of putting on such an iconic production. Read below for the full interview.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: So tell me about the process of choreographing such a popular show?

A: The whole process has been a little nerve wracking just because it’s such an iconic musical and Bob Fosse is such

a role model for me. His style of movement is so specific that it either needs to be completely accurate or you need

to go a whole different way with it.

I didn't want to do it wrong. If he were here watching someone do his work, I would want him to be proud of what's

on stage. There have been so many companies of Chicago and it's such a treat to do. For us at the Springer, for my

knowledge of the last 12 years, this is the first full Fosse based show not just a single stylized piece. It's really neat

that we get this sort of dance exposure in our community and onstage

Q: How did you balance past choreography with your own vision?

A: There's a couple of original pieces: “All That Jazz,” the finale “Nowadays,” and “Hot Honey Rag.” It has been a

treat doing those and knowing and making sure that I've given as much detail that I’ve learned from Fosse mentors

of mine to pass on to the cast so that they do it as accurately as possible. Everything else is a tribute to the

movement Fosse choreographed and directed in the 70’s.

And of course the show has been around for so many years. There was also the movie choreographed and directed

by Bob Marshall which brought a sort of new age relativity and obviously movie magic. His movement was inspired

by Fosse, but was larger whereas Fosse’s is more simple and refined. Dance is like fashion; it changes each season.

Each year there is something new to keep up with. He took a new spin on it which was a great tribute to the original

and I love that too. My version has a culmination of all it: from Fosse, to Marshall, Reinking and then of course to

me being an artist and being able to have this opportunity to set the work. I love that about the show.

Q: How was choreographing this show differed from one’s you’ve done for the Springer in the past?

A: I love having kids in shows and ensembles like Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid, but this has been a real

treat having a full professional cast of adults. It’s also a smaller cast so it's really intimate and I’ve really enjoyed

that. We were able to get the material out quickly, so the process has become more about refinement. We’re

“cleaning the language” as they call it of the Fosse movement. We’re making sure every hand and finger isolation is

in place as it should be.


Q: What should our local audience expect when they come

see the show?

A: 100 percent Broadway caliber material! I had the

opportunity about three weeks before we started rehearsal to sit

in what they call a “put in” when a new ensemble member is

going in a show. I got to sit in the house in New York and watch

their rehearsals and the show. I watched a lot of detail of that

and I wanted our show to be everything I saw: the dance, New

York City, Chicago, Bob Fosse, the whole realm of it right here

in Columbus. So that's been my biggest goal —to bring Broadway

directly to this stage.

I think the audience is going to get to see a great show! It’s a

very mature cast of professionals. I’m excited that I get to debut

the new season at the Springer with this particular show. Last

season I had the opportunity with Mama Mia and this is just as

exciting of a show as that, just in a different way. I know that so

many patrons know Chicago one way or another, so I’m excited

they get to see this show and I think that it's a privilege that

the Springer gets to produce this show on their stage. It’s such a

beautiful historic space; Chicago is going to look gorgeous on

that stage. Everybody, the cast and the designers, have worked

so hard to create everything that Chicago needs to be for us. It’s

really beautiful and I’m excited for the audience to see it! ◼



SEPTEMBER 20, 21*, 26, 27,

28, OCTOBER 3, 4, 5

AT 7:30 P.M.


OCTOBER 6 AT 2:30 P.M.






offer only valid for september 21st performance




Columbus Symphony Orchestra unveils new app

to promote audience engagement.


The Columbus Symphony Orchestra will open its 2019-20 season with a new app that is expected to transform the

way audience members experience the orchestra. The app, created through InstantEncore, utilizes the latest

technology to enhance live experiences and create deeper relationships between arts organizations and their audiences

around the globe.

Many symphonies around the nation have seen dramatic results with their implementation of InstantEncore. "Being

available to our patrons on a mobile platform is more important than ever," said Joyce DeFrancesco, Director of Media

Relations for Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. "InstantEncore makes it easy for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

team to collaborate and get lively content out to PSO mobile app users in a consistent and timely manner. The

personalization and engagement that InstantEncore offers is key for us to find new ticket buyers and subscribers and

keep them coming back!" Other organizations that have implemented the app's use include Alabama Shakespeare

Festival, Austin Symphony, Pittsburgh Opera, San Diego Symphony, and more.

CSO’s version of InstantEncore has been specifically developed with their local audience in mind. The app will allow

audience members to access information about upcoming events, buy tickets, read more about the symphony’s

musicians, and read program notes. In addition, audience members with the app will be able to access live footage

from CSO programs like Know the Score and Symphony U, receive notifications on event night of updates, obtain

directions, parking info, videos, photos, and more.

Columbus Symphony (GA)

Columbus Philharmonic Guild, Inc.



Kristen Hudson, Marketing Director & Development Assistant for the CSO, is ecstatic to be bringing this important

resource to the orchestra’s audience. “It will allow us to better connect with our audience members and share with them

what all is happening at the CSO,” said Hudson. “We hope the app will greatly enhance and improve the experience for

our patrons and donors. We have studied the app’s use in symphonies across the country, and the increased engagement

each organization has witnessed is impressive. We can’t wait for the Columbus community to utilize this important new

aspect of the modern symphony experience."

The CSO app is available for free to download on Apple and Android devices. Click here for more information.

If You Go:

What: Henry Kramer Plays Rachmaninoff

When: September 28, 2019

Where: Heard Theatre, RiverCenter

Cost: $20-$39


Image of Henry Kramer courtesy of the CSO.


on the table

getting it all


e live in a world that moves fast. The traditional concept of community is slowly being replaced with

digital relationships facilitated through various applications intended to “advance productivity” of us

as individuals.

While this type of productivity does lend itself to individual success, it’s becoming more and more apparent that it also

comes with some fairly intense disadvantages. Sure, our fast-paced digital world equips us to function at our highest

potential. But it does so without requiring us to actually lean in and personally invest in meaningful conversations with

others. The result? It’s left us wondering what’s next, who our neighbors really are, what they’re interested in, and how

they feel about pertinent issues facing our community. Yes, productivity is high in our culture, but community

involvement could stand a boost nation-wide.

Hence the creation of On the Table.

The Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley

founded On the Table three years ago to promote

community involvement. Designed as a starting place for

meaningful conversations, On the Table has seen

thousands of locals gather together to support the

initiative over the past two years.

“We know big ideas can spring from small conversations

and that people invest in what they help create,” a staff

member said. “That's why we want you to be a part of On

the Table. On the Table is a one-day opportunity to gather

around a table with friends, neighbors, colleagues

and maybe even a few people we are meeting for the first time to talk about the issues, big and small, that impact our

quality of life. When we talk about our experiences and listen to others, we connect and learn about what matters to all

of us.”

By providing an opportunity for community members to gather and discuss important issues in our community, the

initiative has seen growth and involvement from thousands of people across the Chattahoochee Valley. The involvement

has been wide-spread, and the results will be felt for years to come. While some locals choose to just participate in the

annual event and survey, some have formed new groups that now meet regularly to take on action plans conceived at On

the Table.


On the Table is made possible by a grant from the Knight Foundation. "The Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee

Valley is one of ten community foundations across the entire country chosen by Knight Foundation to participate in this

initiative," said local PR specialist Gabby Wilson. "On the Table Chatt is so special. Support of On the Table advances

Knight Foundation's work to help cities, like Columbus, attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunities,

and create a culture of civic engagement."

2019 will be the last year for On the Table in the Chattahoochee Valley. This year’s event will take place on October 22,

and will feature numerous “Chatts’ happening throughout the day.

For more information on how you can be involved or sign up to host a table, click here.

in full



Story and images by Carrie Beth Wallace


The Columbus Botanical Garden celebrates

their 20th year this Fall. The beloved

local Garden has grown leaps and bounds

since its inception, and plans are in place to

continue that growth long into the future.

Thanks to Executive Director Stefan Bloodworth

and his recently expanded staff, our city’s

Garden is headed in vibrant new directions that

will put arts and culture at the center of it all.

The thing that I’m most excited about is

integrating the Columbus arts scene into the

Garden,” said Bloodworth. "One of the main ways

we’re focusing on doing that right now is through the design and construction of our new education and event

center," he continued. "We are renovating the Gin House, which is our barn up on the hill, into a place where

we can host educational symposia. We plan on hosting one or two day conferences on horticulture, floral

arranging, or anything related to the work we’re doing here at The Garden. We also have an amphitheater that

will be associated with it as well. It will be used as a multi-use space for musical or theatrical performances.

It’s going to be wonderful, and a great way for us to put arts and culture at the center of The Garden.”

The decision to incorporate more arts and culture into the Garden has come after a lot of research. “Columbus

has a fascinating cultural and natural history, and it also has a really fascinating future," said Bloodworth. "I

think the future really lies in the performing and visual arts, and in the culinary arts in Columbus as well. We

want to show off those connections as much as possible here via these new spaces at the Garden.”

In addition to the new education and event center, more gardens are being planted throughout the Botanical

Gardens’ expansive grounds. Guests can expect construction to begin as soon as October on the new Pollinator

Garden near the Farmhouse. This new garden will focus both on the inestimable value of supporting a diverse

cast of pollinators as well as the garden design strategies to achieve that end," explained Bloodworth.

A Georgia Native Perennial Garden will focus on the

impressive diversity and beauty of regional wildflowers,

and a Southeast Asian plant collection will be anchored

by an urban forest of Ginkgo and Japanese Maples.

A new children's garden is also in the works that

Bloodworth is thrilled to see as many families utilize as

possible. "We cannot wait to connect a new generation of

Columbus youngsters to the wonders of the natural

world," said Bloodworth. "The planned Children's Secret

Adventure Garden will focus on the fascinating lessons to

be learned through connecting with nature."

These major steps toward growing the Garden’s continued

presence in the community come at an exciting time. The

Garden is gearing up to celebrate 20 years with their

annual Garden Gala on October 14-15.


In addition to Bloodworth and his team’s presence, the 2019 Garden Gala will

feature an impressive list of speakers including designer Richard Keith

Langham, heirloom experts Jason and Shelley Powell, floral stylist Mary

Pinson, Southern textile artist Aaron Sanders Head, and floral designer and

author Sybil Sylvester.

For the first time, the Garden Gala will feature a new bourbon tasting event

on Tuesday evening. Bourbon & Blooms in the Garden, chaired by Jack and

Ashley Turner, will feature a tasting of specialty bourbons paired with

delicious food and live music. Local vendors will also be on site in the Adams

House during the party for guests to shop at their leisure.

Ticket purchases to Bourbon & Blooms in the Gardens include

an automatically entry into a raffle for a chance to win a bottle of Pappy Van

Winkle Bourbon (the #1 rated Bourbon Whiskey in the world) signed by

CEO, Julian P. Van Winkle, III. For more information, click here.

Wednesday evening's Gala event Dinner with Cheff Scott Peacock will feature

a menu developed specifically for Garden guests by the James Beard Award

winning chef. Peacock is former owner of two award-winning Atlanta

restaurants, and co-authored the popular book The Gift of Southern Cooking

with his dear friend Edna Lewis in 2003.

Gala Director Bob Vardaman is looking forward to this year’s Gala. “This

year’s Gala offers more opportunities to participate, learn, and experience the

Garden than ever before,” said Vardanman. “Unofficially, we are hoping that

this two-day event becomes ‘the party of the year.’ Please support and take

advantage of all of these experiences and help fund the future growth of this

beautiful property.” ◼

For more information on how

to get involved with the

Columbus Botanical Garden,

or to purchase tickets the

Garden Gala, click here.

FALL into


with our Arts & Culture Guide


September 1-27 Sketching Under the Skylight Exhibit, Bo Bartlett Center

September 15 Andrew Zohn, guitar, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

September 18 Katie Jacobson Landscape Series Art Show, Highland Gallerie

September 19 Historic Columbus Lunch and Lecture, Trinity Episcopal Church

September 19 Salon at Six, Bo Bartlett Center

September 20 - October 6, Chicago, Springer Opera House

September 20 Heist! Columbus Museum

September 20 An Evening with Mozart, faculty recital, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

September 20-21 Columbus Writers Guild Conference

September 21 Jazz at the Bo, Bo Bartlett Center

September 21 Tri-City Latino Festival, Columbus Civic Center

September 22 Schwob Philharmonic, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

September 24 Tuneful Tuesday, Bo Bartlett Center

September 24 Clement Arts Celebration Banquet, St. Luke Ministry Center

September 25 David Diamond Reading & Recital Series, Bo Bartlett Center

September 26 Schwob Wind Ensemble, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

September 27- October 5 Peter and the Star Catcher, CSU Riverside Theatre

September 28 CSO Henry Kramer Plays Rachmaninoff, RiverCenter for the Performing

Arts September 29 Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony & Schwob Wind Ensemble, RiverCenter

September 30 Schwob Jazz Orchestra, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

View the community calendar here!


with our Summer Arts & Culture Guide

click for tickets!


October 1 National Arts and Humanities Month Kickoff Block Party, 1000 Broadway

October 1 - January 10 Wolf Kahn Exhibition, Bo Bartlett Center

October 1 Music Under the Dome, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

October 1 Little Sprouts Program, Columbus Botanical Garden

October 3 Schwob Wind Orchestra, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 4-20 The Rainbow Fish, Springer Opera House

October 4 Rockweave Music & Arts Festival, La Grange

October 5 Columbus Collective Golden Hour Oktoberfest Art Show, Omaha Brewing Company

October 5 Columbus Artists’ Guild 2019 Members Exhibition Reception, Columbus Public Library

October 5 Signal Flow Vol. 1 No. 1, Studio Theatre, RiverCenter

October 6 Joshua May, tenor, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 8 Schwob Singers, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 10 Midtown Mingle, St. Elmo House

October 12 Synovus Fall Festival, Columbus Museum

October 12 CSO Brandenburg Concertos, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

October 14-16 Columbus Botanical Garden Gala

October 15 Tuneful Tuesdays, Bo Barlett Center

October 17 A Night at the Bo, Bo Bartlett Center

October 17 Linwood Ramble, Linwood Cemetery

October 17-19 Audience Building Summit, Springer Opera House

October 18 Yuriy Leonovich, cello, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 19-20 Schwob Concerto Competition, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 22 Katrin Meidell, viola, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 23-34 Fiddler on the Roof, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

October 24 Death by Chocolate, National Civil War Naval Museum

October 25 Choral Conductor Cabaret, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 26 Solo Duo, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 26 CSO Lost in Space, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

October 27 Organ and Friends, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

October 29 YOGC Fall Concert, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

October 29 Salon at Six, Illges House

October 31 Columbus Collective Halloween Art Show and Party, Pop Uptown

View the community calendar here!



November 1 Schwob Jazz Orchestra, The Loft

November 2 Henry Kramer, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

November 5 Music Under the Dome, Coca-Cola Space Science Center

November 7 Schwob Philharmonic GMTA Concert, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

November 7-17 Yesterday and Today, Springer Opera House

November 8 Gladys Knight, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

November 8 - 16, The Importance of Being Earnest, CSU Riverside Theatre

November 9 Steeplechase, Callaway Gardens Steeplechase Grounds

November 12 YOGC Whitewater Orchestra Festival, Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts

November 16-24 Going on a Bear Hunt, Springer Opera House

November 16 The Illusionists, RiverCenter

November 16 Guitar and Poetry Concert, Studio Theatre, RiverCenter

November 17 Virtuosi String Ensemble, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

November 18 Schwob Philharmonic, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

November 19 Pilobolus, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

November 19 Choral Union, Legacy Hall, RiverCenter

November 23 CSO Fireworks, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

November 30 Small Business Saturday - Shop the Arts Day!


September 27- October 5 Peter and the Star Catcher, CSU Riverside Theatre

October 1 National Arts and Humanities Month Kickoff Block Party, 1000 Broadway

October 1 Little Sprouts Program, Columbus Botanical Garden

October 4-20 The Rainbow Fish, Springer Opera House

October 10 Midtown Mingle, St. Elmo House

October 12 Synovus Fall Festival, Columbus Museum

October 23-34 Fiddler on the Roof, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

October 26 CSO Lost in Space, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

October 29 YOGC Fall Concert, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

November 9 Steeplechase, Callaway Gardens Steeplechase Grounds

November 12 YOGC Whitewater Orchestra Festival, Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts

November 16-24 Going on a Bear Hunt, Springer Opera House

November 19 Pilobolus, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts

View the community calendar here!








Story by Blake Blackmon | Images by Carrie Beth Wallace


You can paint an endless array of things with a single

color when you know it well.” - Jaime Arraya

The color is brown and the medium isn’t paint, rather something many of us begin our days with: coffee. Jaime Arraya,

owner of Cafe Motif, goes beyond the standard brew, wanting his customers to experience the true art of coffee.

Countless hours, days and months have been dedicated to grow, harvest, source and roast exceptional coffee from a

variety of countries with endless possibilities of captivating and gorgeous tasting notes available. It is Cafe Motif’s goal to

bring that experience to Columbus. It can also be said of Cafe Motif itself that countless hours, days and months have

been dedicated to its conception: 2 years to be specific.

Before coffee, there was art. Jaime grew up studying and believing he would one day be a painter. The idea of opening a

coffee shop wasn’t even on his radar. For awhile he and his wife, Natalie, worked in an office where they coordinated the

routes for deliveries for a coffee supplier. They frequented a coffee shop within the office space that inspired them to

daydream things they would do differently. “It was all hypothetical, we felt like that’s silly, we’re not going to do it and

we don't know how to do it. But the ideas kind of stayed. We kept those ideas,” said Jaime. When they found out they

were going to be parents, however, it altered their goals and led them in the direction of desiring something of their own

where they could work together and enjoy the space as a family: a coffee shop.

The journey wasn’t a clear path. They originally set out

to create their dream coffee shop in Puerto Rico, and

came close to signing the lease when hurricanes Irma

and Maria came and stopped them in their tracks. “For

almost a year we were working on it, and then it just

didn't pan out,” said Jaime. An invitation from a friend

eventually brought them to Columbus, but as far as

they were concerned the coffee shop dream was on

hold. “We had no intention to continue to pursue a

coffee shop in such a new setting,” said Jaime. After

being in Columbus for awhile and exploring the local

coffee scene, however, it was Natalie who eventually

said that there was space in Columbus for the type of

shop they wanted to open. The dream was put back in


“It is the culmination of persistence: 2 hurricanes, 2

apartments and a 2 year old that has overflowed our

lives with joy...and with the loving support of our

family, we have poured our passion for aesthetics and

hospitality into every inch of this space,” said Jaime.

Cafe Motif feels different than the typical coffee shops today that veer dark and cozy or industrial. This, of course, was

intentional. “We wanted to go against the grain and do what was the opposite of the norm,” said Jaime. His background in art led

to the gallery aesthetics and a central theme of coffee being considered more than just a hit of caffeine, but an art itself. The shop

is carefully designed in realms of simplicity and minimalism, with everything having a purpose. Everything from the customizable

seating, to the immaculate marble bar that provides the perfect viewing spot of a pour-over in the process, was deeply


This environment sets the stage for Jaime’s intention of sharing a different side of coffee to shine. His go-to recommendation for

people to experience this is an Ethiopia Single Origin Coffee. The brightness and fruitiness tend to be unexpected and offer

surprise and delight that he hopes will open customers to a new dimension of coffee they didn’t know it could have. This is also

why Jaime made the controversial decision to not feature syrups in his shop. He debated the topic for awhile. “There’s nothing

wrong with syrups or liking syrups, but there are already a lot of people doing that style of coffee and doing it well. If my goal is

to change the way you do coffee, than offering syrups would mean sacrificing my vision,” he said. His answer to the demand for

syrups is a seasonal drink sweetened with all natural ingredients that has been received incredibly well. Right now it’s an orange

blossom latte and he is open to creating and inventing other alternatives to syrup-flavored drinks by incorporating these natural

coffee cocktails.

Along with unique coffee offerings, Cafe Motif features original twists on popular food dishes as well as original dishes. Jaime’s

friend Jeshua Perez is currently in charge of the menu and finds ways to remix popular dishes and make them his own. In many

ways the menu mirrors the coffee shop-–simple on the surface, but every detail has been well thought out. For example, one of the

menu items is avocado toast, but instead of using just any bread, Jaime has discovered the perfect bread from Root

Atlanta. This adds a commute where there didn't have to be one. They drive to Atlanta to get the bread because it’s the perfect

bread for the dish, illustrating that everything down to the bread choice has been decided with great care, no matter the lengths it

takes to get it just right.


Looking to the future of the menu, Jaime has an even bigger vision. “Our goal, hopefully at some point, I would love to

find ways to invest our energy in finding ways to pair coffee with items. I have some ideas for simple pastries; they don't

have to be complicated. It would just be interesting to have a coffee and to be able to tell people we made this cookie for

this particular Columbian coffee,” said Jaime, “It’s something that I don't think a lot of people have explored, and I

think it's as possible as people are doing it with wine and beers.”

The vision for Cafe Motif doesn't stop here. Jaime has ideas for the future involving music and possibly even art. “I

would love to see the space in a different context” He also has a vision for future cuppings and classes to share his

passion and knowledge for coffee with the community.

It comes as no surprise that the name Cafe Motif bears an interesting origin story. It stems from a fascination with Michelin star

restaurants and how their names tend to be minimalistic and short. “I didn’t want a traditional coffee shop name,” said Jaime. In

search of a name that could double as the name of a fine dining restaurant, he turned to the dictionary. He went letter by letter and

finally landed on Motif. “It rang a bell from art school. In art school we would use it a lot and it gave me good memories and after

reviewing the definition, ‘a predominant element in a music or art piece or a pattern,’ it just fit,” He said. Taking the definition to

heart, Jaime believes that their own motif in the cafe is to serve exceptional coffee everyday and educate people on what coffee can

be; that’s their pattern. A big part of this vision is putting people’s need for caffeine as something you drink merely for energy in the

background and showing them that it can be so much more than that and a very enjoyable experience. “The caffeine is just a plus, and

I want to show people that it shouldn't be the primary reason for drinking it,” he said, “and Cafe Motif is something you will

remember as not just a place for caffeine, but an experience.”

The logo even encapsulates Jaime’s vision in entirety: minimalistic yet full of meaning and tied to art. It was brought to fruition by

talented, Atlanta-based graphic designer Drew Kora. After some back and forth they landed on the logo you see today. “He told me

that the logo needed to have a life of its own,” said Jaime. It’s interesting because if you were to zoom in on the logo, it stops being

letters and becomes a pattern itself, referencing back to the definition. “Loving geometric art and minimalism, I just fell in love with

it. It really works,” said Jaime on the design. The glowing sign of the Motif logo is the first thing that might catch your eye behind the

bar, and perhaps you will walk away seeing both the word and coffee differently. ◼

Cafe Motif

3540 Massee Ln

















Story and images by

Charlotte Gallagher

ll beauty is an outward

expression of inward good…”

I stopped for a moment to read the

welcome sign into Serenbe. All that

surrounded me was wide open land for

horses to run and mingle on, a gravel

road into the development’s first

hamlet, a small lake, and a bright,

blue sky. “I have 24 hours to explore

as much as I can,” I thought. “Where

do I even begin? “

I had already checked into the Inn at Serenbe, complete

with all of the little touches that show care and

consideration. There was all-natural shampoo in the

bathroom, complimentary glass water bottles, ground

coffee, and a compost can. The room was simple,

quaint, and full of light from the large windows that

overlooked the field where I would watch Ragtime later

that evening.

I had the option to walk to The Hill Restaurant or rent

a golf cart. Both sounded lovely, but I decided to walk

to really survey the land and to get some exercise. I

started walking down the gravel road and began passing

by horses roaming through bright green, lush fields.

Only a few other cars and golf carts passed by. It was

June 1. I was told this was the beginning of the season

so it wasn’t very crowded yet.

After a 20 minute walk, I reached The Hill Restaurant

and was seated on the patio because the inside was

completely full. My server Gail explained to me that

they have a rotating menu because all their recipes are

locally sourced from whatever is in season. My

appetizer, dinner, and dessert included a Salmon

Tartare with house made chips and avocado, Lamb

Bolognese, and Chocolate Banana Marshmallow

Macarons. Everything was delicious and the whole

experience was a fine balance between fancy and casual.

After my rich dinner, I began the walk back through

the village and noticed how all of the houses were very

close to the sidewalk. I learned later that the intention

was to encourage neighbors to talk to one another

instilling a sense of community and connection. I also

noticed that my entire environment was incredibly


As I started getting closer to the Serenbe Playhouse I

was already on the edge of my seat. Ragtime, as I was

told, was a favorite amongst theater fanatics. I had also

learned that other performances had included sinking a

ship for Titanic, using zip lines for Peter Pan, and a

real-live headless horseman for Sleepy Hollow. I knew I

was in for a treat.

Once I sat down I watched the actors as they were

warming up doing backbends, ballet moves, chatting

with one another, and really just “acting natural” even

though they were about to begin the show in character.

Most plays are indoors with freezing cold air

conditioning and you don’t get to see the characters

until the show begins. Not at Serenbe. I already felt a

connection to the actors here. I could tell they were so

comfortable with the environment and the characters

they were about to become.

Ragtime was one of the best performances I have ever

seen. I got chills and was moved to tears. One of the

songs called “He Came to Say” has a lyric that states –

“We have the same hearts even though we have

different backgrounds.” It gave me chills.

I arrived at the Playhouse with some time to spare and

was already in awe. The first thing I saw from afar was

the large, white circus-esque tent that covered the nonauditorium

seats and stage.

No matter where I would have been seated, I noticed I would

have been right in the action. There isn’t a bad seat in the

house. I could feel the performers’ energy, dedication, and

intention with every word, movement, and note they belted.

The whole performance reminded me how important live

theatre is for our souls.

Feeling energized and exhausted at the same time, I walked

the 100 yards back to my cozy room, curled up in the

inviting king size bed and passed out. I usually sleep with the

sound of a fan, but I quickly found that I did not need one in

the least that evening and welcomed the quiet. I slept better

than I had in a long time.

Serenbe began in 1991 when Steve Nygren decided to

“retire”. He and his family moved into what is now the

Farmhouse Restaurant. One day he heard a bulldozer nearby

and discovered they were about to tear up the land. He said,

“Oh heck no – don’t ruin my paradise!” and formed an

alliance with other local landowners to save the land and do

something special with it.

According to my tour guide and Serenbe history expert

Micah, Steve and his wife Marie Lupo believe that if you

want to change the world, you have to start in your own

backyard. And that’s exactly what they did.

Micah mentioned that Steve and Marie’s vision wanted to

combine mindfulness, nature, creativity, and hospitality.

Steve already had this sense of hospitality having owned 38

restaurants in multiple states during his younger years. He

ended up selling his restaurants to buy the Farmhouse as a

weekend getaway for his family. In 2004 they broke ground

on the first house in Serenbe. In 2005, the first family

moved into Serenbe. Since then the population has grown to

700 residents.

Micah further explained to our group that the community

contains 4 different “hamlets” or villages that focus on a

different theme - arts for inspiration, agriculture for

nourishment, health for wellbeing, and education for

awareness. Steve had studied how towns were built hundreds

of years ago and fell in love with the sacred geometry of the

English village system and thought, “Why not bring it back?”

We continued walking around the grounds past a pump with

fresh well water, an area for goat yoga, the spot where Micah

and his wife were married, until we reached one of the main

attractions - the Labyrinth, a meditation rock garden that was

modeled after a labyrinth in France.

We continued through the woods until we arrived in the first

hamlet where the Farmer’s Market takes place every

Saturday morning from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The tour finished at

the Blue Eyed Daisy which was the first restaurant in

Serenbe and the smallest LEED (Leadership in Energy and

Environmental Design) certified restaurant in the country. I

learned that LEED buildings must meet certain responsible

standards including the foundation, the windows, the

insulation, etc. and these requirements end up reducing the

energy demand by 30-35%.

After a latte at the Blue Eyed Daisy, I walked over to the

Farmer’s Market. After looking at all the delicious goodies

from neighboring farms and watching some kids learn how to

milk a goat, I walked away with some peaches, some kale, and

a Serenbe Hamlet newspaper. Next on the list was lunch at

the Farmhouse with Stevie Seay, Public Relations

Coordinator and assistant to the goat yoga classes at Serenbe.

As we dined over our super healthy vegetable salads, she

explained how all the homes are Earthcraft certified

( and use geothermal technology for

cooling and heating. All of the water comes from a well and

they have their own waste treatment system. Many of the

residents have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

share in which they have a full or partial amount of

vegetables that they can choose from every season. This

encourages that sense of community and connection to nature

by getting people to come to the farm to pick up their food

whilst having conversations with their neighbors.

My next adventure was the afternoon Farm Tour. I hopped in

my car this time as it was in a different hamlet a little

further away. I learned from our tour guide that everything

at Serenbe is grown year-round from organic seeds only. The

chefs in Serenbe will tour the farm every week to choose

which vegetables and herbs they are going to use in their

recipes that week. Therefore, there is always a rotating menu

as the chefs will use what is in season ensuring the purest and

nutritious ingredients possible for the customers – what our

bodies “should” be consuming to keep it in balance. Hence,

my delicious dinner at The Hill the night before and good

night’s sleep.

Up next was a Farm to Table Cooking class. I drove over to

the next hamlet and walked into a well-lit, white-walled room

complete with a dining room table in the center already preset

with silverware, glasses, and menus typed on brown paper

notecards. I picked them up and read that we would be

making Buttermilk Biscuits, Harissa, Aioli, and Green

Goddess Dressing. Mouth watering, once again.

While we waited for the chefs to set up their ingredients they

offered us a glass of wine, beer, or water. The island was so

neatly laid out I felt like I was on a live cooking show. After

almost every step in the cooking process the chefs would clean

the area. The head chef Paddy told us many stories from his

early cooking days and that he learned how to cook from his

grandmother and father. He made heartfelt comments such

as “my grandma knew what she was doing,” “the kitchen is

the heart of the home,” “it brings everyone together”,

“cooking is relative, but so personal”, and “a clean kitchen is

a happy kitchen.” I loved the entire experience.

With a full heart and belly, I made my way back to the

Serenbe Inn where I would complete the day with horseback

riding. I luckily got to have my own private tour with the

instructor Haley and nearly fell asleep on the horse as we

slowly trotted through the magical woods. I chatted with her

about everything I had learned about Serenbe in the last 24

hours and she responded with the best conclusion to it all:

“It doesn’t sound normal, but why couldn’t it be?”

We’ve been conditioned to believe that the “real world” is

full of strip malls, grocery stores, microwavable dinners,

traffic, noise, high rises, air conditioning, getting from here to

there as fast as possible – really we’ve been conditioned that

being stressed all the time is normal because it means we’re

being busy and productive. We have gotten so accustomed to

moving fast that when we finally stand still and gaze at a

flower for more than 10 seconds, it feels odd, unfamiliar, but

also wonderful at the same time because we remember that

being is just as important, if not more, as doing.

Serenbe is a living, breathing community that is showing the

world how it is possible to live a healthy, sustainable, and

creative life while co-existing with others and that the

possibilities are endless.

Later that week, I got to have a phone interview with the

founder himself, Steve Nygren.

Before building Serenbe, Steve asked himself, “What kind of

place do I want to live and others to live in?” He and his wife

would rather work with the land, rather than against it.

They “believe a community is a living part of its natural

surroundings, not something to be built at nature's expense.

[They] believe in biophilia—the theory that there is an

instinctive bond between humans and other living systems.”

Steve explained that by living this theory, they only disturb

30% of the land instead of all of it. He knew that hospitality

was the foundation along with community, art, nature, and

INTENTION in the entire project.

When I asked Steve how they came up with the name

Serenbe, he said, “This is the way people lived hundreds of

years ago and they were happier and healthier. We

discovered the serenity we had been searching for when we

finally BE’d.” ◼


tips for your trip

to Serenbe


Make use of these links.

To see information on upcoming productions

at Serenbe Playhouse click here.

For general information on Serenbe click here.



yourself not to plan too much

beforehand – just go and be.


Call ahead to make a reservation for dinner,


especially on a play night.

Ask a local! When setting out on a walk, make

sure to give yourself enough time to explore.

Ask around about how much time you need

depending on where you’re headed. Serenbe is

expansive, and you’ll want to see as much of it

as you can. Take locals’ advice and plan


A heartfelt thanks to our sponsors and advertisers!





volume II FALL 2019

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